Drinking Coffee Lowers Suicide Risks

Researchers link caffeine to lower levels of depression.

Coffee image via Shutterstock.

Coffee image via Shutterstock.

Coffee withdrawal is a thing. Several months ago, the condition was added to the DSM-5, along with an entry for caffeine intoxication. According to the diagnosis in the manual, consuming more than 250 ml of caffeine per day, or two cups of brewed coffee, is not recommended, as that amount of caffeine can cause intoxication symptoms.

However, a study published on July 2 in The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry found a positive side to caffeine consumption: lowered suicide risk.

The study was based on a review of three larger U.S. studies, and Harvard School of Public Health researchers found that adults who drank two to four cups of caffeinated coffee throughout the day had a lower risk of suicide as compared to adults who drank very little or no coffee.

Why this link? Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, but it may also act as a mild antidepressant, according to a report about the research. Caffeine likely boosts the production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, like serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline, which can lead to happier moods. This may explain the lowered risk of depression and suicide among coffee drinkers.

The lead researcher of the study and a research fellow in the Nutrition Department at Harvard’s School of Public Health, Michel Lucas, explained his findings in the report:

“Unlike previous investigations, we were able to assess the association of consumption of caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages, and we identify caffeine as the most likely candidate of any putative protective effect of coffee.”

During the study, the coffee intake of more than 200,000 individuals was assessed over four years by questionnaires. Caffeine consumption was calculated, and researchers made sure to differentiate between coffee and non-coffee caffeine choices, like tea, Diet Coke, and chocolate. Coffee, however, was the primary caffeine source in the study, as 70 percent of individuals picked it as their drink of choice.

So should you go back to pouring your fourth cup of coffee? The researchers of the study say no. They didn’t observe any major differences in risk between individuals who drank two to three cups of coffee per day and those who drank four or more cups of coffee. Because of this, the authors of the study recommend consuming only two cups of coffee per day, following the DSM-5’s recommendations. Drinking more than 400 mg of caffeine in one day is not encouraged, even for depressed adults.